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Travel Tips for First-Time and Avid Travelers Alike

by William L. Gertz
Student traveling in Costa Rica with AIFS

Students are studying abroad and traveling again! Since we all may be a little out-of-practice, we wanted to share some tips for travel from William L. Gertz, an experienced traveler (and AIFS Chairman!).


Whether this is your first trip or your twentieth, you need information to develop your own travel style.

Here are a few things I have learned during my many years of travel across the globe. Feel free to incorporate a few as you plan your adventures this year.

  • Don’t try and do too much or the entire trip will be a blur. Assume you will be back again because you will.
  • Don’t take too many photos to post as you really only need a bunch to start bringing back the memories.
  • Shots without people are totally unnecessary unless it’s a natural wonder or an amazing sunrise or sunset.
  • Take one bag even if you are going for a month. You can buy some cheap cool clothing or just wash stuff out in the sink. Baggage just slows you down (in more ways than one).
  • Buy small gifts for the people you love.
  • Have your morning coffee in a working man’s cafe. Standing up of course (it’s cheaper).
  • Eat. absolutely everything. Even bugs from street vendors. If you crave a McDonalds or Burger King don’t be ashamed. No big deal.
  • Travel by train if you can. Much better than air for short to medium distances. Anything under 8 hours makes sense and better for the environment. Buy the proverbial wine cheese and fruit before you get on.
  • Buy yourself a gift or two but remember it’s experiences and not things that matter in the long run.
  • Eat in a fancy restaurant. Once.
  • Fall in love (for a little while).
  • Walk everywhere. Minimum six miles a day. You’ll see so much more.
  • Miss some of the tourist sites. No need for Changing of the Guards in London. How could that be memorable?
  • Get some sleep. One nap a day if you can. Drink water (and wine) to stay hydrated.
  • Don’t be sad. Don’t miss home. It will still be there when you return.
  • Meet people. Talk to people. You will regret it if you don’t.
  • Don’t worry about getting sick. You might, but probably won’t. Have insurance.
  • Stay off social media.
  • Sit in outdoor cafes. Pretend you are famous. Wear sunglasses and always carry a journal.
  • Don’t spend your whole trip talking about where you have been. No one cares.
  • Do talk politics and religion. Always interesting. But don’t argue.
  • The USA is not necessarily better than anyplace else, just different. Have respect for other cultures!!
  • Follow all local laws. Don’t be a wise guy.
  • Blend in. Don’t show off your hometown garb.
  • Get lost in Venice.
  • If you see something you really want, get it. You might never find it again.
  • Don’t agonize over the currency exchange rates. Don’t miss a city because you heard it was expensive. Just spend what you normally do.
  • Eat when local people eat. Maybe later than you are accustomed to, but it will be a better experience.
  • Learn at least a few words in the local language.
  • Be curious!
  • Dance, sing and laugh a lot.
  • Forget your future and live for the day.

William L. Gertz is Chairman of AIFS

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